Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Bess Houdini!

Bess Houdini was born January 22, 1876, which makes her 141 years old today. She honestly doesn't look it! In November, I attended the Yankee Gathering in Massachusetts and in attendance was John Hinson, Great Nephew of Bess and Harry Houdini. John is just the coolest guy. He clearly has a passion of magic history and especially the Houdini family. He loves to share the stories of his family and share rare photos, many that have NEVER been seen in print before.

John graciously has allowed me to share some of these pictures with you in the coming months, and I am very excited to be doing so. I don't yet have those pictures from John, but I know he's been busy so you'll get to see them soon enough.

For now we wish Bessie a very Happy Birthday!!!

HOLD THE PRESSES!!!! Bessie can have some cake today if she likes, but ole John Cox pointed out to me that John Hinson (the very same I mentioned above) showed him proof that Bessie was born on Jan 23rd!!!!!!!! Honestly though, having gone through many census records and birth records from the 1800s and seeing how dates change and fluctuate, its a wonder we have an accuracy at all. But, then again, if it comes from John Hinson's collection, I'm going to believe it! So 23 it is!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rare Robert-Houdin Magic Token Help Needed

I was contacted by Paul Courville, a collector of magicians tokens,  concerning an item he has acquired of Robert-Houdin. Specifically, he is searching for any information or individual with information that could provide him with additional details about the item.

Paul found a reference for this coin dating it to France 1935, created by J Dhotel, however, the listing says the back of the coin is blank, but Paul's has writing on the back. The back of his coin reads "Association Francaise Des Artistes Pretidigitateurs". (see photo very bottom of page)

Additionally, he found an image of a plaque, which also has the 'Association....Prestigitateurs' on the bottom of the plaque and a bronze image of Robert Houdin in the center, with the exact same likeness as that of the coin. (see below)

If you happen to have any information regarding this coin and it's history, would you kindly contact Paul at

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Other Blackstone Book Review

Back in 1999 Daniel Waldron wrote a book called Blackstone A Magician's Life. It was a fantastic biography of one of the true greats in our business. If you've never read it. find it and read it! You'll be glad you did. One of the great things about the book are the first hand accounts by George Johnstone and Nick Ruggiero, both who worked on the Blackstone Sr. Show.

In 2016, a new book was written by Daniel Waldron called The Other Blackstone. Though not as extensive as the first book, it's still an enjoyable recollection of the the other Blackstone. This book is about Alfred Peter Boughton, who was born March 1st 1887. He was the younger brother of Harry. Yes, the name was originally spelled Boughton.  The book has 6 chapters and a epilogue, plus a lot of photos. It's only 40 pages long, so it's a quick read, but it's a fun one. There are some great stories in the book, and as I mentioned, great photos to match.

And the great thing about the book is the co-author, Adele Friel Rhindress, who also worked on the Blackstone Show.  She has her own great book on her adventures with Blackstone called 'Memoirs of An Elusive Moth'. The recollections of her time with Pete really help the reader to see him as a living breathing human being, and give a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a famous touring show.

I remember the first time I saw a photo of Pete. I was confused as to what I was seeing. I thought it might be some double exposure photo that Harry had produced. But then I found out that Harry had a brother. According to Adele, it was Pete who really RAN the Blackstone Show. Harry was the star, but Pete handled everything backstage.

I purchased this book at the Yankee Gathering from David Haversat. I'll be honest, I don't know how many were produced. But I would check with him to see if there any left. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ThrowingCards, The Blog, Check it Out!

There is a new blog that just hit the internet called It's the brainchild of Gary Brown, who used to have the site a number of years ago. That original site was on a free platform that has since vanished into the night, as many of those 'free' sites eventually did. But now, Gary, along with Gary Frank, and Tom Ewing, have restarted the site as a blog. And it's very cool.

What is a throwing card? Well, it's a very clever piece of advertising that magicians would use at their shows and during appearances. From what I've seen, it was a customized playing card with the artists information on the front of the card, and the back usually like a playing card back, but not always. Sometimes, the cards would be from the same stock as playing cards, other times they might be from a thicker card stock. Often the magicians would throw or scale the cards from the stage. In other cases, they might simply hand the card out, like one would hand out a business card. I did not know it, but this was done by a lot of performers, both famous and not so famous. I was aware of the Thurston throw card, in fact, I own one. But outside of that, I didn't really think it was very popular. Wow was I ever wrong!

I would encourage you to go over and check out the site. As I mentioned, they have three regular contributors so I'm sure you're going to see some great pieces. I was so inspired by viewing their site that I am not considering a throwing card of my own! Go check them out,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Fay Controversy Continues

Anna Eva Fay
Anna Eva Fay was a medium and clairvoyant who rose to prominence in the late 19th Century and early part of the 20th Century. I have written about her several times and even visited her grave in Massachusetts. She was a fascinating woman on many levels. She began as a medium, one who was highly investigated and fooled many of the top minds in the world who researched psychic phenomenon. But still she was a fake. So that makes some of her achievements even more remarkable.

Eventually, she would move into mind reading using the method first developed by Samri Baldwin.  This addition took her out of the area of spiritualistic demonstrations to theatrical performances and it proved highly successful. Along the way, she began to train her son John in all the methods and techniques that she used, hoping and expecting that he would one day take over the show. But in what would be an incredible betrayal by her son, he taught a young woman whom he would later marry, Eva Norman how to do the act. They went out as The Marvelous Fays. Anna was furious. Overtime, Anna would forgive her son, but she never forgave Eva Norman, and the two barely tolerated each other for the rest of their lives.

This brings me to this past weekend's Potter and Potter Auction. There was an item that was listed as "Fay, Anna Eva. The Fay Thaumaturgy Dream Book" And it was a very awesome item, but this was actually an Eva Fay book, not an Anna Eva Fay book. There are several things that give away who this belonged to. For one, the publisher was John T. Fay, the son of Anna. The 'mascot' coins which are reproduced on the cover of the booklet are also those of 'The Fays' not Anna Eva Fay. And finally, they called their performance 'Thaumaturgy', where as Anna called what she did "Somnolency'.  That doesn't make the item any less valuable however. It's still a very rare Dream book and whoever won that item has a real treasure! I think the auction item also came with a token and a ticket, which again pushes up the value of this lot!

This mix up between The Fays and Anna Eva Fay has been going on for years. In fact, Barry Wiley in his wonderful book The Indescribable Phenomenon, says that when Anna Eva Fay passed away in 1927, the news of her death was in all the papers and in an ironic twist of fate, Eva Fay's bank accounts were closed, thinking that she had died. But it was Anna Eva Fay who had passed. I guess the elder Fay got the last word.

By the way, I just finished reading The Indescribable Phenomenon, and it was a fantastic book. Barry Wiley's in-depth research is remarkable. I would encourage anyone interested in magic history and especially the Spiritualist side of the art, to check out this book. I found my copy on ebay. It was published by but their website is down currently.

Both Fays, had put out special token coins, that they both sold for 25 cents. Both had the word 'Mascot' on them. But it's easy to tell the difference. I think there are two Anna Eva Fay coins and one Eva Fay or 'The Fays' coin. The first copper coin below is the Anna Eva Fay coin. You can see her initials, AEF, under the sitting figure. In the book The Indescribable Phenomenon, it's mentioned that there may have been 6 different versions of this coin, but all looked relatively the same. There is a second Anna Eva Fay Coin, which is round, about the size of a quarter and is pictured below. Both coins have the initials, AEF on one side. The final coin below was used by 'The Fays/Eva Fay', and you can clearly see how similar in look this coin is to the copper AEF coin. However, the name 'The Fays' is clearly visible on one side of the coin. And rather than a sitting figure on one side of the coin like AEF had, The Fay coin has an Egyptian looking figure with wings. 
Anna Eva Fay -Mascot Token

Anna Eva Fay - Round Mascot

Eva Fay/The Fays - Mascot Token

Both Fays also put out Dream Books. These are easy to tell apart because one uses the word, Somnolency, which is Anna Eva Fay's book, and the other uses the word Thaumaturgy, which is the book used by The Fays, the son and daughter in law. I don't own any of those at the moment, otherwise I would put up a picture.

I came across another site recently that had a poster listed as an Anna Eva Fay poster, but it was actually one of Eva Fay's. I don't recall off hand what the site was and I can't seem to locate it. Suffice to say, the confusion between the two Fays continues on.